Total in-store and online sales fell -2.2% in March, marking the sixth consecutive month of negative sales results, according to new data from BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker

The last six months marks the longest consecutive period of negative growth outside of the COVID-19 pandemic. BDO’s data, which looks at sales across discretionary spend categories, highlighted that in-store sales were negative for the fourth month in a row (-1.8%) and pulled down by sharp falls in both fashion and homewares sales. Non-store sales were also negative (-2.3%), following three successive months of positive results.

Commenting on this, BDO head of retail and wholesale, Sophie Michael, said: “These results continue to paint a bleak picture for retailers. Despite both the Easter bank holiday weekend and Mother’s Day falling in March this year, these results serve as a stark reminder of the pressure the sector is under.”

Fashion was the only non-store category to see positive results in March but the growth of 1.5% failed to offset the negative in-store sales, which declined by -6.0%. 

The homeware sector also performed poorly, falling by -10.9%, the lowest monthly result for this category since May 2022. The lifestyle sector performed slightly better, with sales up +0.9% compared to the same month last year. 

Michael continued: “Going into April, retailers will see their costs rise even higher with the uplift in the national minimum wage and increased business rates leaving very little room to spend on investment, promotions or other ways of encouraging consumer spending. 

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“Elsewhere, there are reports that order levels fell in March and are expected to fall further in April, showing no signs of appetite for consumers to increase discretionary spend. Retailers will be fixated on managing their cost base to ride out what continues to be a challenging trading period, with no notable recovery on the horizon just yet.”